For photos of two more garden tour homes, see pages 8 and 9.

The Four Seasons Garden Club’s Secret Garden Walk tour on Saturday features gardens at seven private homes, including the home of Dale Van Vlissingen, 10708 Lakeshore Drive in Pleasant Prairie, who calls her gardens “a labor of love and a work in progress.”

When we talked with Van Vlissingen earlier this week, she was ready for the tour.

Or, as she said, “I’m as ready as I’m going to be. It’s like Christmas; you’ve completed all the shopping but are doing all the last-minute details.”

Her gardens are “inspired by Lake Michigan in front and the Chiwaukee Prairie to the back.”

Van Vlissingen, who is from Lake Bluff, Ill., moved to her home in 2002 after retiring, “and I love it here. I’m so happy I came here and was able to get a house on the lake in Pleasant Prairie.”

Her home’s previous owner “was a gardener, and she left me with some nice perennials. I’ve moved things around and made it my own now.”

Van Vlissingen came to gardening later in life, after retirement.

“I lived mostly in condos and townhouses during my working life,” she said. “When I retired, I got into gardening, and it’s become my summer obsession. Playing in the dirt is very soothing.”

You can find here — along with her three dogs and two cats — “puttering around and enjoying being outside.”

And when the summer gardening season is done, she spends the winter “thinking about what I’ll do in the summer.”

She describes her style of gardening as “impulsive. I buy plants without thinking about where I’m going to put them. Then I make it work.”

Overall, she’s learned that, as a gardener, “you should do what you enjoy — as little or as much as you want to do. It doesn’t have to be extensive; you can do a lot in a pot.

“Just remember, it’s always a good day when you get out and enjoy nature.”

Garden Club member Lynda Guy, who helps coordinate the event each year, describes Van Vlissingen’s garden as “a classic cottage look,” which makes Van Vlissingen smile.

“I love that description,” she said. “I have plants everywhere, just blooming. This is not one of those manicured looks with a perfect lawn. It’s a very relaxed garden.”

Van Vlissingen has been on the Secret Garden Walk several times herself before becoming a tour stop.

“I love the garden walk because it gets me to places I might not get to,” she said. “It really is a ‘secret garden’ walk. You get to see so many varieties of gardens.”

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